Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Lily and Pearl - the Feline Prozac Nation

Lily on the table, Pearl underneath (Pic by C)

The two cats drive each other in opposite directions.

Pearl has a slow, slightly rolling gait, a cross between Mae West and John Wayne. She is an intelligent being who learns fast and masters circumstance. She takes no fright and demands her food, space and comforts. She is also considerably hungry at all times but is under vet's orders not to grow obese. No eight course main dish for her. She comes for food prompt on her hour, in fact prompter. She has the Autolycus trick of snapping up unconsidered trifles. I have substantial confidence in her ability to survive and bend the world to her approximate, momentary and developing will. In the mornings she leaps into the empty bath and waits for the tap to be turned on for water. She wants it all on tap. Daytime she is either stretched out on the bed, rolling over on her back when we enter or call her name, or she is outside eyeing the birds. A singular rat was reported to us by E, our back garden neighbour, and Pearl got on the case for a while, even picking up the trail, then sloping off before the rat could actually be spotted. Big rat, says E. Big as Pearl. I doubt it.

Lily is smaller, very delicate, the most nervous, most easily frightened cat we have ever had. If Pearl is alpha female, then Lily is omega, omega double minus. Lily too loves the bath tap but she takes her turn, listening out for any sudden movement, any faint bump that might bring on the horrors. Lily is scarcely to be seen at any time. She doesn't like to be touched, only on her own strict terms and even then on only two spots of her body: her neck-ear region, and the end of her back that she presses up when you scratch it. There is une très petite putain there who cannot quite help the instinct but will firmly resist the thought. She likes it if you call her name and look at her. Then she'll wander agitatedly here and there, rubbing her nose against any available object. A shoe will do. Your hand too for a moment but she won't settle there. Affection breeds an ecstatic restlessness in her, but there is no desire for maintained contact.

The relationship between the two is domineering and, at times, edgy. Lily will want to play at times but Pearl is not interested. She tolerates Lily for one or two sallies then loses her patience. It is when the tension is at its height that Lily disappears almost entirely.

There is a cat Prozac solution we order on the net. It is a facial pheromone that settles whatever chemicals they are releasing, chemicals we don't notice, but which mean a whole lexicon to them. I don't say they get blissed out, just that they seem to relax a little more and go with the flow. Lily ventures closer to Pearl, makes more guest appearances in my study or the book room, and might even take her life in her hands and go out into our tiny yard. Pearl keeps her patience a little longer before setting out on another Mae West / John Wayne patrol. Lily is the product of a feral cat and seems to embody Philip Larkin's observation regarding your mum and dad. I'm sure Lily's mother didn't mean to but she did. Nor will Lily have any kids herself. I am in any case convinced that she was fathered not by a cat but by a mouse.

Lily submitting to Pearl, half play, half terror, Pearl hardly noticing (C's pic again)


Poet in Residence said...

Thank you. I do like cats.

It's interesting to compare the pictures, in the top one (a super shot by the way) Lily appears to be top dog and in the other it's plainly Pearl. Fascinating creatures. What do they know? I often wonder about this.

My new poem today is about a horse.

dana said...

Kitty prozac, who knew?

I could've used some back in the day, for Frances and Gina, aka Franny and the Bean. Franny had to make the one-way vet trip when I was pregnant with the guys, and I worried that the Bean would be distraught. 12 years companionship ended -- she was overjoyed. Although she's still not completely kid-friendly.

Irene, age 3 at the time, asked on the way home from Franny's final trip, "Can we get another cat? Like Franny?" I told her no, as her mother was having her own litter in the fall. The Bean is still enjoying her lone cat status, but stays well clear of the boys.

All in all she's adapted very well since the day I brought Irene home from the hospital, set her on the table in her basket, and the Bean jumped up for petting. She smelled the sleeping baby, hissed, and vamoosed. Now Irene and the Bean are casual friends with mutual respect.

I do miss the two cats sleeping in a pile on the bed. I suppose it's only our duty to maintain their homes in the style they expect, isn't it?